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July 25, 2014

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This youth group is focused on community service, and the teens love it

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Brian Nordli

Students mingle at the Youth Achievement Awards hosted by the Batteries Included youth group at the Historic Fifth Street School on Friday, May 3, 2013. Batteries Included is a program dedicated to helping teenagers become involved in their community and develop skills for the future.

Legacy High School student Quortney Judie remembers fighting back tears as she and her Batteries Included peers passed out shoes and clothing to homeless children.

The sight of the little children, dirty and in need of basic necessities like a shower and clothing, tugged at her heart. She remembered hiding the tears so the children didn’t feel pitied. The moment sticks out from a long list of community projects she’s taken on as the youth group’s downtown branch president.

Since she joined the program two years ago, she and other teens in the group have fed the homeless on Thanksgiving and handed out gift baskets to them on Christmas. For Halloween, they started a costume drive, collecting more than 200 costumes for children at Detwiler Elementary School.

Judie only meant to stay with the program for as long as it took to earn a community service credit at school, but it has become more than that. The youth group and these experiences have helped prepare her for the future.

“This program has got me to become a very social person,” Judie said. “I’m able to communicate with anybody, and I love (helping) homeless people now.”

On Friday, she joined about 120 other teens at the sixth-annual Youth Achievement Awards Gala at the Historic Fifth Street School to reflect on their growth and be recognized for their contributions to the community.

The awards ceremony honors the students' accomplishments in arts, citizenship, education, environment, inspiration stewardship, leadership and tolerance. This year’s event took on a New Orleans theme and included a speech from Mayor Carolyn Goodman and interim Clark County Schools Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky.

“We think it’s a great way to showcase all of the things our youth are doing,” Batteries Included deputy director Lisa Morris Hibbler said. “Just to see the fruit of (their accomplishments) they should be showcased. Oftentimes we see the negative side of teens, but our kids do a lot of good things in the community.”

Batteries Included began about six years ago as a collaboration among the city of Las Vegas, Clark County School District and nonprofit agency Nevada Partners. Morris Hibbler said the youth group is dedicated to providing an outlet for teens to become involved in the community and develop skills to prepare them for college.

This year, the six branches in the Las Vegas Valley have volunteered more than 3,500 hours doing community projects they’ve come up with. They’ve donated 415 pounds of food to the Three Square food bank, organized a costume drive and written and performed a play that 455 teens attended.

Meanwhile, students in the Las Vegas Academy and Cimarron-Memorial High School branches are planning a prom for those living in a senior center.

Both branches started a month ago, and are developing additional projects for the future. Elizabeth Adams, the Cimarron-Memorial branch president, said they plan to paint over graffiti near the school and repaint the red curbs. Already, Adams said the program has had an effect on her.

“I’ve learned to be a leader,” Adams said. “Everybody calls me, everybody comes to me and says, “What do I do with this?” And I have to step up with an answer.”

For Judie, the program has helped her become more outgoing through her time as president — a skill she knows she’ll need if she wants to become a lawyer. It’s also opened up her eyes to the struggles the homeless face. Where she used to ignore them on the road, now she pulls up and gives them money.

The experience has given her more than she ever could have imagined when she joined. She can’t even remember the last time she filled out hours for her community service credit.

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